Coronavirus: Far-right activists protest against virus pass in France
Protesters throw plastic bottles and pot plants at mounted police at Sydney Town Hall during the ‘World Wide Rally For Freedom’ anti-lockdown rally at Hyde Park in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/EPA
Far-right activists and members of France’s yellow vest movement are holding protests against a Bill requiring everyone to have a special virus pass to enter restaurants and other venues and mandating Covid-19 vaccinations for all health care workers.
Legislators in France’s senate are debating the bill on Saturday after the lower house of parliament approved it on Friday.
French virus infections are spiking and hospital cases are also growing. The government is trying to speed up vaccinations to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals and avoid new lockdowns.
Most French adults are fully vaccinated and polls indicate a majority of French people support the new measures.
Protesters against the move marched through Paris in one of multiple demonstrations planned for Saturday.
A crowd gathered at Bastille plaza and marched through eastern Paris in one of several demonstrations which took place around France.
Thousands also joined a gathering across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower, organised by a former top official in Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration party.
While most protesters were calm, tensions erupted on the margins of the Bastille march.
Riot police sprayed tear gas on marchers after someone threw a chair at an officer. Other projectiles could also be seen in a video of the incident.
Many marchers focused their anger on a French “health pass” that is required to enter museums, movie theatres and tourist sites.
The Bill under debate would expand the pass requirement to all restaurants and bars in France and some other venues.
To get the pass, people need to be fully vaccinated, have a recent negative test or have proof they recently recovered from the virus.
Legislators have debated the measure amid divisions over how far to go in imposing health passes or mandatory vaccinations.
Last weekend, more than 100,000 people protested around France against the measures.
They included far-right politicians and activists as well as some others targeting their ire at president Emmanuel Macron.
Remaining members of France’s yellow vest movement, largely from political extremes, are also using the virus Bill to try to renew their campaign.
The yellow vest movement started in 2018 as a broad uprising against perceived economic injustice and led to months of protests marked by violence between demonstrators and police, but subsided after the French government addressed many of the protesters’ concerns.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Sydney and other Australian cities to protest lockdown restrictions amid another surge in coronavirus cases.
The unmasked participants marched from Sydney’s Victoria Park to Town Hall in the central business district, carrying signs calling for “freedom” and “the truth”.
There was a heavy police presence in Sydney, including mounted police and riot officers in response to what authorities said was unauthorised protest activity. Police confirmed a number of arrests had been made.
New South Wales (NSW) Police said it recognised and supported the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, but the protest was a breach of public health orders.
A police statement said: “The priority for NSW Police is always the safety of the wider community.”
The protest comes as Covid-19 case numbers in the state reached another record with 163 new infections in the last 24 hours.
Greater Sydney has been locked down for the past four weeks, with residents only able to leave home with a reasonable excuse.
State health minister Brad Hazzard said: “We live in a democracy and normally I am certainly one who supports people’s rights to protest ... but at the present time we’ve got cases going through the roof and we have people thinking that’s OK to get out there and possibly be close to each other at a demonstration.”
In Melbourne, thousands of protesters without masks turned out downtown chanting “freedom”. Some of them lit flares as they gathered outside Victoria state’s Parliament House.
They held banners, including one that read: “This is not about a virus it’s about total government control of the people.”
A car protest rally is also planned in Adelaide, which is also under lockdown, with police warning they will make arrests over unlawful activity.
Vietnam has announced a 15-day lockdown in the capital Hanoi as a coronavirus surge spread from the southern Mekong Delta region.
The lockdown order, issued late on Friday night, bans the gathering of more than two people in public.
Only government offices, hospitals and essential businesses are allowed to stay open.
Earlier in the week, the city had suspended all outdoor activities and ordered non-essential businesses to close following an increase in cases.
On Friday, Hanoi reported 70 confirmed infections, the city’s highest, part of a record 7,295 cases in the country in the last 24 hours.
Nearly 5,000 of them are from Vietnam’s largest metropolis, southern Ho Chi Minh City, which has also extended its lockdown until August 1.
In the latest wave of Covid-19 since April, Vietnam has recorded over 83,000 infections and 335 deaths.
A meeting of the National Assembly scheduled to open in Hanoi on Tuesday with 499 delegates will go ahead but was shortened to 12 from the original 17 days.
The delegates have been vaccinated, are regularly tested for Covid-19 and are travelling in a bubble, and will be isolated at hotels, according to the National Assembly. – AP